Universal Analytics Hype: Brand Name for Foreign Keys

A while back, Google announced their Universal Analytics tool – or an extension of their Google Analytics tool.  To much fanfare, the tool is heralded as a game changer.  The idea is that now, with the free Google Analytics tool you can track every interaction of your users and customers.  However, we all know that free never comes without a price.

Universal Analytics – Yet Another Buzzword for Stuff We Already Have

I work in B2B direct marketing so I’m spoiled with user data.  Everyone has to be logged in to make a purchase and the industry has been doing matchback analysis for decades.  When UA shows up and makes the promise of allowing users to “integrate their own datasets and ultimately get a more complete vision of the entire marketing funnel.” I’m curious as to why Google thinks this is new?

The big sell is tracking every interaction with a new UserID value across your website, mobile site, in-game and off-line activities.  Yet we’ve had this tech and there’s a good reason why not everyone tracks every interaction.

A Foreign Key, a Table of Users and an IT Headache

The userID field of UA is attached to every interaction your customer makes and that interaction + userID is stored in some table on your database.  From there you simply upload these tables to UA and then are able to explore them in the familiar Google Analytics method.

The userID is the primary key in a User table but is a foreign key in every other table of interactions.  This is the essence of relational databases and this idea has been around since the 1970s.

Despite the technology existing, it’s dang hard to tie a foreign key to every thing a customer does.  If you’re a retail store, you can capture a lot of information but at a cost.

The Tradeoff – Giving Something in Exchange for Anonymity

If you’re going to do all of this tracking, you have to hope that customers find value in the trade – a discount, preferred treatment, order history, etc.

If you can get the IT resources together to implement the “Free” Universal Analytics tool then you’re only 30% of the way there.  The other 70% is building a customer experience that doesn’t annoy the heck out of customers.

  • Online recommendations are only available to logged-in users.
  • Product demos are interactive when you swipe your loyalty card.
  • Direct mail customers receive expedited service if they reference their ID.
  • Hotel staff can provide you with your favorite snack and beverage if you register with your loyalty card.

Side-Note: What about new customers?

All of this information is GREAT to have and you could already do it without Google’s help.  New customers are left out though, since any transaction before they get a userID / loyalty card are completely anonymous.

It all comes back to matchback analysis for anonymous orders – just like Direct Mail has been doing for decades.

Does anyone remember in Google’s terms of service:

You will not (and will not allow any third party to) use the Service to track, collect or upload any data that personally identifies an individual (such as a name, email address or billing information), or other data which can be reasonably linked to such information by Google.

So adding a UserID isn’t personally identifiable?  I understand that it’s a different product but its a big switch…